Matches (17)
WPL (2)
PSL 2024 (2)
AFG v IRE (1)
Nepal Tri-Nation (2)
Ranji Trophy (4)
Durham in ZIM (1)
BPL 2024 (1)
CWC Play-off (3)
WCL 2 (1)
ESPNcricinfo Awards

ESPNcricinfo Awards 2017 Test bowling winner: Garry goes Indian

The Australian offspinner adapted his game to local conditions to spectacular effect in Bengaluru

Australia's India GOAT? You bet  •  Associated Press

Australia's India GOAT? You bet  •  Associated Press

What a difference a year can make.
Towards the end of 2016, Lyon had come close to being dropped - he retained his place in Australia's attack for the Adelaide Test against South Africa only because Steve O'Keefe had picked up an injury. Lyon played that Test, picked up three second-innings wickets in a consolation Australian win, and kept his place for the three Tests against Pakistan that followed.
Still, he had plenty of questions to answer when he arrived in India in February 2017, particularly about his efficacy in Asian conditions. In 11 Tests in the continent, he had averaged 42.57, while conceding more than three and a half runs per over. By the end of 2017, his numbers in Asia would improve beyond recognition, his average dropping to 31.12 and his economy rate to 3.28. It all began in Bengaluru.
Lyon took five wickets in the first Test, but his contributions were eclipsed by the accurate left-arm spin of O'Keefe, whose 12 for 70 on a Pune dustbowl led Australia to a shock win. India had won eight out of the first nine Tests of a jam-packed home season before Australia arrived; they were now one bad session away from losing the Border-Gavaskar Trophy.
The recent overhaul of the drainage facilities at the Chinnaswamy Stadium had parched the venue's formerly batting-friendly pitches. No one quite knew what to expect, and when India won the toss, they found themselves batting on a dry jigsaw of a pitch that retained a bit of surface moisture. It only took a few overs for Mitchell Starc, bowling left-arm over, to create discernible footmarks in Lyon's business area.
Lyon's natural strengths of overspin, dip and bounce were rewarded. A short leg and a leg gully breathed down the necks of the predominantly right-handed Indian line-up, as the ball time and again spat out of the rough.
If this had been the old Lyon, India's batsmen could have tried to hit him off his length by stepping out or sweeping, but that wasn't always possible against the new and improved Lyon, who had learned to combat those options by varying his pace and bowling a more stump-to-stump line. For large parts of their innings, India's batsmen were forced to play from the crease.
Eight wickets tumbled to Lyon, and with the rest of Australia's attack backing him up beautifully, India were bowled out for 189. They would fight back with their bowling and second-innings batting and eventually win a seesawing and ill-tempered Test match by 75 runs, but they had to scrap every inch of the way thanks to Lyon's first-day masterclass.

Key moment

Lyon's first wicket had come off what turned out to be the last ball before lunch. That dismissal, of Cheteshwar Pujara, the number of balls frequently leaping from the rough, and the presence of short leg and leg gully might have been playing on Virat Kohli's mind when, 25 minutes after lunch, he went on the back foot to a flat delivery and shouldered arms. Lyon hadn't landed this one in the rough - it pitched a lot closer to off stump, in the unmarked area of the pitch - and it turned and bounced as much as any normal offbreak on a first-day pitch: which is to say it struck his front pad plumb in front of middle stump.

The numbers

3 Number of hauls of seven or more wickets in an innings for Lyon against India - the most by any bowler. Alec Bedser, Ray Lindwall, Lance Gibbs and Muttiah Muralitharan had taken two seven-fors each.
64 Number of wickets Lyon has taken against India - more than any other Australian bowler. His eight wickets in the first innings in Bengaluru took him to 58, past Brett Lee (53), Richie Benaud (52), Glenn McGrath (51) and Mitchell Johnson (50).

What they said

"Nathan Lyon gave a master class in classical off spin bowling at the KSCA today. I hope the great Erapalli Prasanna was at the stadium too."
- Cricket historian Ramachandra Guha
"What a performance from @NathLyon421 8-50... class, class, class and one of the great guys of our sport."
- Former Australia captain Michael Clarke

The closest contenders

R Ashwin, 6 for 41 vs Australia, Bengaluru
Two spells from the same Test match, both from offspinners, ended up top of the pile among this year's contenders, reflecting that the Bengaluru Test was a match for the ages. In the first innings, with India bowling on a pitch that had lost its initial moisture, Ashwin had performed a largely holding role, finishing with 2 for 84 from 49 overs. Then, with India defending 188, he came into his own in the fourth innings, running through Australia to finish with six wickets, the pick of them a spitting cobra of an offbreak to send back Mitchell Marsh, caught bat-pad.
Steve O'Keefe, 6 for 35 vs India, Pune
The deadliest ball on a square turner is the one that doesn't turn. Where Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Lyon were only able to sporadically summon up this ball on a Pune dustbowl, O'Keefe bowled it time and again, his relentless accuracy ensuring that a batsman's first mistake was usually his last one. O'Keefe ended up with identical figures in both innings. The more influential spell was the one in the first innings, when Australia, having posted 260 after winning the toss, bowled India out for 105 and found themselves a long, long, long way in front.

Karthik Krishnaswamy is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo